11/30/2004, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Religious leaders call for the abolition of the death penalty

Seoul (AsiaNews) – "Let us abolish the death penalty and replace it with life sentences", reads a communiqué released on November 22 by representatives of seven religions at a congress held in South Korea's National Assembly Building. About 1,000 people from the Catholic Church, Protestant Churches, Buddhism and Won Buddhism took part in the deliberations.

The Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, Bishop of Incheon and President of the Committee for Abolishing the Capital Punishment of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, said that "God is the master of human life and the God-given life cannot be dependent on the human decision". For this reason, he is hopeful that the 'death penalty abolition bill' will "pass at [current] session of National Assembly."

In one voice, leaders from different religions urged lawmakers to abolish death penalty, i.e. 'institutional murder' by the state and sign the 'Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights' which aims to put an end to the death penalty and replace it with the life sentences. As a symbolic gesture, the religious leaders cut the ropes used in hanging prisoners.

In the second part of the congress, Renny Cushing, executive director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights in the US and Yasuda Yoshihiro, a well-known human rights lawyer and anti-death penalty campaigner in Japan, took part in a seminar. Both stressed the importance of helping victims and their families and demanded that capital punishment be replaced with life in prison.
Mr Yu In-tae, a Woori Party member in South Korea's National Assembly who recently tabled a special bill for the abolition of death penalty, was also present. He said that 150 of his fellow lawmakers backed his reform.

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